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Hold Neo-Conservative Muslim Scholars To the Same Standards As Other Muslims

03/20/2014 11:37 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Recently, Muslims of many stripes expressed outrage at the misogynist jokes of Abu Eesa, a U.K. based instructor at the Al Maghrib Institute for Islamic Sciences.

In fairness, Al Maghrib issued a statement in support of women. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by another statement.

Rushing to the defense of his friend and peer at the institute, Yasir Qadhi, an influential neo-conservative Muslim scholar, wrote a scathingly judgmental response against all fellow Muslims, offended by Abu Eesa's misogynist remarks.

Qadhi describes Abu Eesa as "one of the most God fearing, God conscious and merciful people", who "never made any jokes about rape, or FGM, or domestic violence". He caricatures fellow Muslims with a "complete lack of adab (etiquette)" and as those who are "eager to pounce on and display the faults" of their brother.

Qadhi asserts that "scholars and Islamic activists", are perpetuating a "flagrant lie" and that they "should rise up above emotional, knee-jerk responses". He warns fellow Muslims against "useless chatter" and "made-up gossip". He quotes the Qur'an on "casual smearing" and the need to verify news from untrustworthy sources.

However, a diverse array of Muslims read the comments, which some found quite hurtful. Some have even saved a snapshot of the jokes Abu Eesa made on Facebook about rape and female genital mutilation.

The Qur'an enjoins believers to stand for justice even if it were against their own kin. Dr. Hashim Kamali reminds us that the Qur'anic verse 4:148 indicates that the cry for justice must be heard even at the expense of it being hurtful. Justifiably, many Muslims asked Abu Eesa to apologize, who even according to Qadhi, "initially acted stubbornly".

Muslim scholars like Dr. Omid Safi, community activists like Hind Makki, Rabia Chaudry and Ibrahim Maaz and community leaders at the el-Tawhid Juma Circle Unity mosques have done nothing to elicit Qadhi's scathing response except demand that his friend be held accountable for misogynist jokes.

Neo-conservative Muslim leaders like Qadhi wield immense power that is conferred upon them by a cult-like following. Such followers cede their God given faculties of reasoning and allow themselves to be mentally enslaved by "scholars".

Qadhi's response sounds like he may feel threatened about his own position - now that many Muslims are speaking truth to power. According to a devout Saudi father, such scholars as well as many rulers in the Arab world commonly use this bullying tactic to maintain power. They stifle voices that challenge their authority with charges of "incorrect" positions and "impolite" discourse.

Qadhi wants fellow Muslims to give the benefit of doubt to his friend for making misogynist jokes. Yet, he does not extend the same husn al dhan (thinking well of others) to others.

The words of Imam Ali, the Prophet's cousin and fourth Caliph, are quite pertinent in this case.

He who has appointed himself an Imam of the people must begin by teaching himself before teaching others; his teaching of others must be first by setting an example ...

Qadhi patronizes fellow Muslims by alluding to their "psychological mindset" and even paints the convictions of some Muslims with "manifestation of kufr" (disbelief).

To charge others, who do not agree with one's opinions, with heresy is bullying. The 19th century jurist Ibn Abidin asserted that those who made charges of disbelief were mainly writers of a lesser caliber.

Moreover, in the absence of wahy (revelation) how can Qadhi pretend to know what lies in the hearts of fellow Muslims? Does not the Qur'an indicate that Judgment belongs to Allah alone?

The Prophet is attributed with the saying'wisdom is the lost property of believers, who should claim it wherever they find it'.

As such, we can all learn greatly from C.S. Lewis:

All of the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing ...

In the spirit of stifling conversation, Qadhi downplays the issue of the misogynist jokes. He tells his audience that they would be better off reading the Qur'an, doing dhikr (remembering Allah), supporting some charity or making dua (prayer) for Palestine, Syria and Guantanamo.

However, the many personal acts of devotion and charity that Muslims of all stripes perform are not there for riya (show). Moreover, Imam Habib Ali has vehemently stated:

To the men, especially those who are religious ... Your night prayers, your daily fasts, your memorization of scripture, your charity, your pilgrimage, your knowledge and your teaching, your struggles for the sake of God - everything you do - won't get you to a point where you are something before God if you don't let all of that pass through the gateway of benevolence to women.

Qadhi fails to recognize that some of his fellow offended Muslims are the same ones who go beyond making duas and spend their time voicing human rights abuses on a whole array of issues that include Palestine, Syria and Guantanamo.

Qadhi invokes the tired fitna (trial) argument to judge the hearts of fellow Muslims. Instead of healing hurts, he uses bullying tactics to silence fellow Muslims to defend his friend and the power structure they share.

According to Muslim author, Dr. David Liepert:

Every Muslim is striving to follow Muhammad (upon whom be peace) and the message of the Qur'an, and until every Muslim acknowledges that every other Muslim is their spiritual equal in that jihad (effort), scholars will remain a fitna (trial).

Muslims who are free in mind, soul and heart, who submit to none but God, who countenance no clerical authority on the path of Muhammad (upon whom be peace), are not easily silenced by whimsical arguments cloaked in Islamic jargon. They have the strength to stand up to neo-conservative Muslim scholars.

To echo the late Pakistani poet Habib Jalib:

But your power over us is coming to an end

Why do you pretend you can cure pain?

Even if some claim that you've healed them,

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept